UNC Tomorrow Commission launched

GREENVILLE – University of North Carolina leaders announced Friday the members of a “blue ribbon” panel that will examine the system’s future and how it can meet the needs of the state.

The initiative, UNC Tomorrow, was launched at last month’s Board of Governors meeting with Norma Mills, former Chief of Staff for Senate Pro Tem Marc Basnight, serving as the executive director for the study. The entire process is scheduled to take 18 months, with a report to be presented early next year.

The University of Illinois’ Global Campus Initiative

Online education has largely been treated like a stepchild in the world of higher education. It gets a bit of food and some old clothes, but not much attention in comparison with the university’s real children. A new online initiative begun by the University of Illinois, however, may give this Cinderella a more prominent place than it has had before.

Announced last May, the Global Campus Initiative (GCI) is a remarkable university undertaking that should give online education more prominence. What’s more, the GCI is intended to be a profit-making venture and the startup capital will be raised from private sources. The tuition paid by students – and no breaks for Illinois residents – are expected to cover all costs. Implicitly, Illinois is saying, “We think we have an educational product that will pass the test of the market.” Very interesting, especially since several high-profile online education ventures have failed.

Panel OKs ECU Dental School

CHAPEL HILL — A University of North Carolina Board of Governors committee Thursday gave approval to plans for a dental school at East Carolina University. The full Board of Governors will vote today on whether to give final approval to the creation of the state’s second dental school.

Members of the Board of Governors’ Committee on Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs gave unanimous approval to the plan following a brief presentation by Alan Mabe, vice president for academic planning for the UNC system. Mabe’s presentation outlined the plan, accompanied by comments from a review committee that included dental experts from across the nation.

The push for a new dental school has been billed by supporters as an effort to alleviate the shortage of dentists in the state, especially in rural areas. The price tag for a new dental school at ECU is estimated at $90 million.

UNCG, A&T Eye Nano Program

GREENSBORO — UNC-Greensboro and North Carolina A&T officials recently submitted a request to the University of North Carolina general administration to operate a school of nanotechnology and nanoengineering.

If approved by the Board of Governors, students would be enrolled starting in the fall 2008. The program would mark the second time the two schools together offered a degree program. The schools already offer a combined master’s degree in social work.

School officials have requested a total of $65 million, including funding for new buildings and other operational costs, from UNC in the 2007-2010 budget for the program. Should the Board of Governors approve the program, its budget would still require approval by the General Assembly.

Nanotechnology is focused on microscopic research and development concepts.

Higher Education Conference at UNC Promotes “Inclusion”

CHAPEL HILL – Last week, 150 higher education and business leaders converged on UNC-Chapel Hill for a conference on two favorite topics of the higher education establishment – access and affordability.

In a conference dubbed as “Politics of Inclusion: Higher Education at a Crossroads,” one thing was obvious – the event was highly scripted. Attendance at the conference was by invitation only and mostly included people who agreed with the premise of the conference, that the U.S. needs to improve access to college so as to include a wider cross-section of America’s youth. Rather than an examination of that view, it was essentially a pep rally for that view.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser delivered the keynote address to open the conference. Moeser’s speech sounded much like the stump speeches of former Senator John Edwards in that he said that there are “two North Carolinas” – one wealthy and well connected, the other poor and desperate – and how higher education can help to improve the lives of low-income families. To reach that goal, Moeser advocated an increase in need-based financial aid and said leaders must push an agenda of access and affordability to political leaders.

The Intellectual Monoculture of Higher Education

“It just won’t do to have an all-white university,” Harvard’s president Derek Bok said several years ago, attempting to justify the policy of favoring non-white applicants. The rallying cry for “diversity” proponents has long been that our institutions should “look like America” – that is, to mirror the composition of society with regard to racial, ethnic, and other classifications of individuals. Taking them at their word, what about diversity of philosophy? What about intellectual diversity?

In education, you would think that diversity of ideas would be at least as, if not more important than skin color or sexual preferences. But when it has been pointed out that college faculties tend to be very homogeneous when it comes to their beliefs on socio-economic questions, the response from the higher education establishment has mostly been that it’s a threat to academic freedom even to discuss the matter. No need for “all colors of the rainbow” when it comes to points of view on the proper relationship between state and society. Many academic departments are intellectual monocultures, with hiring preferences by those in authority filtering out any new professors whose opinions are much different from the norm. They think that is perfectly fine.

Bowles makes cuts to streamline UNC administration

CHAPEL HILL – When Erskine Bowles, the business executive who had served as President Clinton’s chief of staff, took over the UNC system in January, he proposed a visionary agenda that would dictate his activities. Among the top priorities was running the organization more effectively and through the prism of his business experiences.

In the past week, we’ve seen some of the results of that agenda. Bowles announced last week that he plans to cut 10 percent, or $1.3 million, from the UNC General Administration budget. The move would eliminate 15.5 positions, half of which are currently filled, including four vice presidents and six associate vice presidents. However, when taking into account three new positions created by Bowles earlier this year, the net reduction of the cut is 12.5 positions.

Higher education is very high in labor cost and approximately 80 percent of the UNC General Administration budget in the past has gone towards personnel.

An Essential Book on Education

Does education matter? That is the title of an absolutely essential book by Professor Alison Wolf.

Yes, of course education matters. The author, who holds the Sir Roy Griffiths professorship of public sector management at King’s College, London, is not questioning whether education is good at all. Rather, she questions whether governmental efforts to expand “access” to higher education and public training programs are justified. The book’s subtitle – myths about education and economic growth – suggests that her answer is in the negative. It certainly is. In my view, Professor Wolf has given us one of the most useful books on education policy in many years because she quietly and carefully demolishes the conventional wisdom that it is imperative for government to “invest” more in higher education. After reading the book, I believe that most people will agree that the best we can do is to provide a solid education in each child’s early years and forget about trying to manage higher education and workforce training.

From the home office in Chapel Hill, the top 15 pork barrel higher education projects

At some point today, legislators will give final approval to the budget compromise that was hatched out before the Fourth of July weekend. It marks the end of the budget process that began in May and extended just days past the start of the 2007 fiscal year.

Like any governmental budget, this one has enough pork to make a pig farmer smile. This year’s higher education budget contains many generous helpings.

In honor of the passage of the state budget, the Pope Center unveils its list of the top 15 pork barrel projects. We determined projects for the list based on two questions. Is the project really needed? Should it be privately funded? While some of the projects in the list seem worthwhile, it would be better if they were funded through voluntary contributions.

So without further adoo and in true David Letterman style, from the home office on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, here is this year’s “Top 15 Higher Education Pork Barrel Projects.”